Who Is Jessica Capshaw?
Actress Jessica Capshaw landed her first major TV role on the sitcom Odd Man Out in 1999. From 2002 to 2004, she played a lawyer on The Practice. In 2009, she earned the role of Dr. Arizona Robbins on Grey's Anatomy. For her role on Grey's Anatomy and her earlier work on The L Word, Capshaw has earned a large fan following in the gay and lesbian community.
Capshaw was born on August 9, 1976, in Columbia, Missouri, to parents Robert, a sales manager, and Kate Capshaw, who later became a successful Hollywood actress. Her parents split when Capshaw was 3 years old. During this time, Capshaw moved with her mother to Los Angeles, where Kate pursued an acting career. Capshaw spent her childhood on her mother's film sets, often in exotic locales such as Sri Lanka.
Kate met director Steven Spielberg on the set of the 1984 film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in which Capshaw played Willie Scott, the female lead and Indiana Jones' love interest. The director and his leading lady fell in love. The couple married in 1991, when Jessica was 15. She is part of a large mixed family that includes five half-siblings and one stepbrother.
Interest in Show Business
Despite hearing warnings from her mother and stepfather about the difficulties of a show business career, Capshaw was drawn to the industry at a young age. While still a high school student at the prestigious Harvard-Westlake School, she assisted Spielberg as an intern on the set of his Academy Award-winning 1993 classic Schindler's List. After graduating from high school, she attended Brown University in Rhode Island, earning an English degree in 1998. She also attended acting classes at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
Small Screen Roles
Her Hollywood pedigree did not guarantee her success in the business. "I don't remember at 19, someone giving me a golden key and saying, 'Welcome to Hollywood, which job would you like?'" she said. "I've always had to work hard for what I've got and to stay where I was." After taking a few parts in obscure films and appearing in minor guest roles on television shows, Capshaw landed her first major TV role in 1999 on the sitcom Odd Man Out, playing Aunt Jordan, one of five women sharing a house with the show's main character. The show lasted just one season, but it gave Capshaw's career a start. She later appeared in supporting roles in several movies, including the Tom Cruise psychological thriller Minority Report (2002), before landing a starring role in the drama series The Practice, playing the oversexed attorney Jamie Stringer. Her role on the show lasted from 2002 to 2004. Capshaw followed that with a series of varied film and television roles, including that of Jennifer Beals' lover on the Showtime drama The L Word.
In 2009, Capshaw achieved a long-desired goal: a starring role on Grey's Anatomy, her favorite show on television. She auditioned for the show twice, first in 2007 when she was pregnant with her son. When she learned, after her second auditioning attempt, that she had been cast in the recurring role of Dr. Arizona Robbins, "it was a jump and scream moment," Capshaw said. On the show, Capshaw played a lesbian doctor who has a relationship with a fellow physician, making Grey's Anatomy the first mainstream prime-time drama with an ongoing lesbian storyline. Capshaw left the show in 2018.
For her role on Grey's and The L Word, Capshaw, has earned a large fan following in the gay and lesbian community. Capshaw has said she is touched by the letters she receives from lesbian fans telling her how much the character means to them. When she is asked what it's like to play a gay character, she says, "I used to always say - because I feel this way - that I wasn't playing anything; it was just this relationship that seemed to make sense and that's kind of the way I hope people would look at things in the world."
Capshaw, who is straight in real life, married entrepreneur Christopher Gavigan in 2004. The couple welcomed their first son in 2007 and a second child in the fall of 2010. Capshaw's son - then 2 years old - was actually the person who first realized that a new baby was on the way. "He pointed to my stomach and said, 'Mommy, baby in your tummy!' I was like, 'What does that mean?'" Capshaw said. "Turned out that I was [expecting]."
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